Gardening smart can save your back!

Lawn and Garden Tips to Prevent Back Pain

Hauling mulch. Trimming trees. Pulling weeds.

Spring has sprung in the Quad Cities and if your muscles aren’t quite ready for a summer of gardening, mowing, and planting, there are ways to prevent a marathon day of yard work from taking its toll on your body — especially your back.

“I hear a lot of complaints this time of year from patients suffering from back and muscle soreness,” says ORA Orthopedics’ spine surgeon, Michael Berry, M.D.

“With all the improper bending, twisting, and lifting, it’s easy to overdo it.”

Four Ways to Garden Smarter

Follow Dr. Berry’s tips to ease the strain and help prevent pain while gardening this spring:

1. Keep the weight close to your body. Hold the mulch bag close to your abdominal core and don’t extend your arms where you can put more stress on upper body muscles.

2. Use your legs and core, not your back. Don’t lock the knees, but bend them to distribute the weight evenly to lighten the load on your lower back.

3. Face the task you want to tackle. If you’re on the ground planting flowers for hours, make sure you square your shoulders to the area you are working. Avoid twisting and overreaching. Move a stool or kneeling carpet directly in front of your flowerbed, keeping plants in front of you as you work.

4. Ease into a plan. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your yard may take more than a week or two to attain that curb appeal. Pull weeds one day, shop for flowers the next. Muscles can atrophy over the winter and need time to build back their strength.

When to see a doctor?

Dr. Berry’s rule of thumb: If your soreness is above the belt or waistline from overdoing it in the garden, the pain will probably subside in a few days.

If pain or numbness travels down your spine, into the buttocks, or into your legs and feet, there may be nerve or disc irritation, in which case it’s time to see your physician.